By Liz Mathews
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday that there had been some concern whether or not wide receiver Sidney Rice would be healthy enough to start the regular season.
“It really guided a lot of our thinking in the decisions that we made … with the receiver position,” Carroll said. “We weren’t sure, you know? But he’s proven to us that he’s ready to go.”
Rice, the Seahawks’ biggest acquisition last offseason, caught 32 passes for 484 yards and two touchdowns in nine games in 2011. He ended the year on the injured reserve in November after suffering his second concussion in a three-week span.
This offseason, Rice underwent surgeries on both shoulders and was limited throughout training camp. To bolster the roster, the Seahawks added three veteran wide receivers to the mix — Antonio Bryant, Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens. Bryant and Owens have now been released, while Edwards remains on the 75-man roster.
“We talked all in the offseason on how we were going to do it and he is ahead of schedule,” Carroll said of Rice last week. “He’s applied himself so well and has done a great job in the weight room. He’s never been pumped like this before. He’s feeling really confident out there and we are all looking forward to it.”
Now back at full practice, Rice made his preseason debut against Kansas City last week, finishing the game with one reception for eight yards.
“He was fast and confident,” Carroll said. “He wanted to play more. He didn’t want to come off of the field, which was great. He needed to get out on the field and you can see it in warmups that he was fired up.”
Rice spoke of his return to full speed on Monday after practice.
“I felt good,” Rice said. “It was good to be out there with my teammates running around, falling on the ground, taking hits and getting back up and running to the huddle. It felt good. It felt great to be back out there.”
And despite his lack of time on the practice field, Rice doesn’t feel like he’s behind schedule.
“I think everybody got their fair amount of snaps with the quarterbacks,” Rice said. “I actually got a couple extra with [Russell Wilson] not knowing he was going to be the starter this offseason. When everybody was gone we used to go up to the University of Washington — me, him and a couple of the other rookies — and throw the ball around, run routes and other stuff.”
Carroll has yet to announce whether Rice will play Thursday against Oakland or get the starting nod against Arizona when the regular season begins. Regardless, Rice’s health remains a major factor in the Seahawks’ roster decisions going forward.
“He’s in great shape,” Carroll said. “He’s the strongest he’s been since we’ve been together, which is really the goal this whole offseason. He’s ready to go and that’s a big deal to us.”